The University of Waterloo has suspended its football program for the 2010-2011 season after nine players were confirmed to be involved in “doping-related infractions.”

The decision, made by university administration on June 14, comes on the heels of the largest steroid investigation in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) history.

The investigation came after Nathan Zettler, a fifth year member of last season’s Waterloo Warriors, was arrested in April for possession and intent to traffic anabolic steroids.

Waterloo athletic director Bob Copeland requested that the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport test the entire squad, running urine samples on 62 members of the eighth place Warriors. The results saw four players admit to steroid use, three come out positive, and one refuse to undergo testing altogether.

Zettler underwent an extended police investigation that has already seen him charged with five counts of breaking and entering, using a stolen credit card, possessing stolen property, and violating a probation order. Police say the stolen goods are worth an estimated $7,500.

Once the charges came to light, Waterloo athletic director Bob Copeland decided to suspend football for the season. Players protested the decision in an emotional press conference led by quarterback Luke Balch and receiver Dustin Zender, and asked that administration reconsider the decision.

A deadline for reinstatement set by the players came and went with little attention from university officials.

Waterloo spokesman Michael Strickland told the CBC: “The decision we announced was difficult but principled. We remain committed to our student-athletes and plan to return the football team to competitive play the following year.”
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According to Copeland, players will be allowed to transfer in time for the start of the 2010-2011 season. So far, twelve players have made arrangements to play football elsewhere in September.

Head coach Dennis McPhee and assistant coach Marshall Bingeman have been placed on paid leave until further notice. In the interim, the university will conduct a full administrative review of any alleged misconduct on their part.

In its official release the university wrote: “This in no way prejudges the coaches. Rather, as a matter of process, it is important that the coaches are not active in the program while the review is conducted.”

The CCES will not release the names of the players involved in the doping infractions, as university rules stipulate that players are entitled to a hearing before their suspensions are ratified.

Two of the Warriors’ players, however, chose to forfeit their right to a hearing and accepted unconditional two-year bans.

Jordan Meredith, a first-year linebacker, tested positive for Tamoxifen, a cancer-fighting drug that is banned under CIS rules. The substance has a masking agent that athletes often use to curb the side effects of performance enhancing drugs. The other player, second-year linebacker Joe Surgenor, admitted to his steroid-use at his test and also took a two-year suspension.

The implications of the Waterloo steroid investigation are far-reaching and will have an immediate impact on other university athletic programs.

The Canadian Anti-Doping Program’s rules, which are up for review by the CIS beginning September 7, are sure to include more stringent testing for athletes.

The University of Regina’s athletic director Dick White has called the situation a “wake-up call” for Canadian universities on the whole; a sentiment echoed by CIS CEO Marg McGregor.

“This is the most significant doping issue in CIS history, and we’re taking it very seriously,” McGregor wrote in a release. “This situation illustrates that the CIS doping control program needs to be strengthened to ensure a level playing field and protect the rights of the vast majority of student-athletes who respect the rules and compete clean.”

Recently, the Globe and Mail reported that the Waterloo Warriors will scrimmage against Ontario opponents at least five times this season, provided they are able to field a full team.